My husband rode 100 miles this past spring in the annual Bike MS event in honor of my father, who has Multiple Sclerosis. He pulled together a team of his cycling friends and, together, they raised $1,500 for the cause. I also have many friends who are walking in various walks this October to benefit breast cancer research and awareness. And every day I pick up the paper, I read about another charity walkathon, marathon, or cycling event that combines miles with money.
Why are charity fitness events so common? Because walkathons raise money while also raising awareness about a cause.
In most cases, the participants in charity fitness events are either survivors or chronic sufferers of the illness the event supports, or they have ties in some way to a loved one with the illness. This makes the group passionate, and when you get a group of passionate supporters together in one place for the same cause, you get a lot of attention. So, not only will you raise money for the cause, but youíll get a lot of publicity and in turn, a lot of people in the community will learn about your cause and what your organization is doing to support that cause.
In 2008, the top thirty charity fitness events raised a combined total of $1.76 billion in gross revenue for their charities, according to The Run, Walk, Ride Fundraising Council, an organization founded in 2007 to assist charities that coordinate fitness events. Can you guess what the top charity fitness event was last year? It was the American Cancer Societyís Relay for Life, which raised a whopping $430 million dollars. After 24 years, the Relay for Life is still the American Cancer Societyís cornerstone event.
Another of last yearís top fitness events, The March of Dimes annual Walk for Babies, raised $125.5 million in 2008. The event, which debuted in 1970, has raised nearly $2 billion to support the organizationís efforts. And letís not forget the hugely popular Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundationís Race for the Cure, a 5K run/walk that raised $113 million in 2008.
Even small, independent charities with very few resources are finding that walks, runs, and rides are worth the time. So, is it time for you to think about organizing a charity fitness event? Hereís a simple look at what youíll need to do. Keep in mind thereís a lot more detail in between the lines, but hereís a start.
1. First, youíll need all the support you can get. Pull together a committed group of board members or volunteers to help you run the event.
2. Decide what type of event youíll sponsor. Longer fitness events, like 100 mile bike rides, or 2-day walks, are much more time-intensive and require a tremendous amount of logistical planning. If this is your first charity fitness event, set realistic expectations. Maybe you should start with a 5K?
3. Determine the date based on a calendar of recognition events. The Race for the Cure, and all other breast cancer awareness charity events, are usually held in October because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Check out e-promos recognition calendar to see what date makes the most sense for your event. This will increase your chances of getting more publicity as well. (HINT: You want to be sure to host your fitness event in a non-winter month.)
4. Put people in charge of these various responsibilities: sponsorships; participant registrations; publicity; traffic management and crowd control; first aid; volunteer management (to coordinate the huge amount of event-day volunteers required); entertainment and hand-outs (a band to play at the finish line, and t-shirts for participants.)
Itís important to know that registration fees for charity fitness events are not the largest source of income. You must have a dedicated effort to seek sponsorships for the event. Not only will you want to have corporate sponsorships to cover the costs of food and beverages for your fitness participants, but youíll need sponsorships to offset the costs of providing water bottles, t-shirts, and other materials.
And, in the end, you want to do more than break event. So, working closely with the registrants to help them build their teams and increase their personal donations should be a priority.
If you plan to host a charity walk, know that it may take several years before it produces huge results. But, over time, it can very well become your cornerstone event and largest source of revenue for your organization. And who knows, you could get some exercise out of it, too!
For help and information, check out:
The Run, Walk Ride Fundraising Council
E-Promos Event Recognition Calendar
The Charity Mile Blog
The Walkathon Blog
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